Monthly Archives: December 2014

Welcome Aboard: Living with Alcoholic Parents

shelby thompson block

Growing up, everyone has problems. Granted, some are worse than others, but everyone has their own demons to keep them up at night.


I was forced to grow up rather quickly because both of my parents are alcoholics.There were many times when I had to be the adult in the situation. Like on my 15th birthday, watching my dad get dragged off in handcuffs for getting his 9th DWI. Or when I was trying to get some sleep for school on Monday, but my mom called me at 2am because she crashed her car and needed me to go pick her up. It really sucks, because when you are little your parents are supposed to be there for you. You think that they are always going to be there to help you if you need it, and they are going to walk right beside you and teach you right from wrong. As a child you don’t plan on your parents leaving you and having to teach you these lessons from behind bars, and you never imagine that you will see them break. I’ve seen the breaking point of both my parents, and those were the worst days of my life.

Dont Like It

I have always been a “daddy’s girl”.  He has always been my best friend. He used to get me whatever I wanted, we went everywhere together, and we always had so much fun until he would get sent back to prison (which wasn’t a rare occurrence). I will always love him with all my heart, but there eventually came a time where I realized that he is not as good of a father as I had made him out to be. He isn’t here for me when I need him the most. He may be just a phone call away, but that is a call I have to wait for since you can’t call into a prison.

Since my dad was always gone I resided in my mother’s house. Up until recently, she denied having an alcoholic’s behavior, but after recent events and being evaluated by a professional, she has since updated her thought process.  I have been forced to move out of her house due to the circumstances.  (I will definitely be sharing these crazy stories, but I will save them for another day.)

Growing up not knowing if one of your parents was going to make it home one night because they decided to drive home drunk kind of forces you to have an optimistic attitude. Hope for the best but expect the worst is my life motto. If I would have sat in my room and made myself sick by thinking about what COULD have happened, I would be a miserable person.



I couldn’t do that. Even though my dad wasn’t always around, he always made sure to remind me that I needed to be a happy person because I had so much to be thankful for. And I really do. I don’t live in a mansion or drive a Mercedes Benz, but at least I am alive and healthy. I have tons of people around me who love me and support me more than I probably deserve, and I am very grateful for that because sadly, not everyone can say that.

This is my life. Welcome aboard.



Editor’s Note:  If you or someone you know is experiencing issues with alcohol/ substance abuse, please visit for information on where to find help.


The 5 Golden Rules of a Great Relationship

amy byrne block

Relationships may be full of “movie moments”, but by no means are real relationships as perfect as you or Richard Curtis would like them to be. No, sir. Because life in movies is all blinding white teeth and endless costume changes, doors flung open right on cue, and kissing in the rain. In real life, people are crooked and strange and three-dimensional, doors never open at the right time, and kissing in the rain just makes your mascara run. Boo.

Real life relationships are full of petty arguments and watched clocks. Real life relationships sometimes mean sleeping with your back to one another; they mean PMS, TMI and unscripted DMCs. But they are also infinitely better than watching two impossibly perfect, half-baked characters smooch as the credits roll. Because they belong to us, and — in the right partnership — they add a whole extra, wonderful dimension to our lives.

Personal Photo/ Amy Byrne
Personal Photo/ Amy Byrne

There is no guarantee that any relationship is going to work, but setting the right conditions helps enormously. Here are AHW’s five golden rules of relationship etiquette; feel free to carve them into stone, proclaim their divinity, and/or repeat them with your S.O. on a daily basis.

… Or just, y’know, practise them.


  1. Be rational. Learn to articulate your troubles without passive-aggressive eye-rolls and name-calling. Learn to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and think — really think — what he or she is getting at. By all means argue, but learn to argue well. The key word with relationship rationality is “learning”: it’s often the hardest part. But once you figure out how to stand back and assess a situation objectively without flying off the handle, you’ve essentially cracked the secret code to a successful relationship. Boom.
  2. Be grateful. Gratitude is not just for Thanksgiving! My mother-in-law famously said that there are two things you can never say enough: “thank you”, and “I love you”. Start being grateful for all the little things your partner does, notice them and tell them so. Those little messages, the cuddles in bed, that times he bought you take-out because you didn’t feel like cooking, the cheap Chipotle dates where you laugh so much that guac snorts out of your nose: say “thank you” for those things and really mean it. Tell your S.O. that you’re grateful for their presence in your life. The power of positive affirmation is greater than you think.

    Personal Photo/ Amy Byrne
    Personal Photo/ Amy Byrne
  3. Be honest. You might hide the whole truth because you think it’ll make your partner’s life easier, but being honest and open with each other about the way you feel is crucial. Do you feel like you’re being spoken down to, are you worried about your partner’s relationship with someone else, or are you just sick of dirty clothes lying all over the floor? Say something! If you leave the small issues for fear of not wanting to start an argument, your frustrations will only blow up into something more serious in months or years to come. It’s possible to raise issues and handle them in a mature and reasonable manner though … Refer back to Rule #1!
  4. Be loving. My husband and I joke about those tacky mantra canvasses that seem to be the cornerstone of the Target home decor section, but in all seriousness: you need love and laughter in a relationship, or what are you left with? Don’t be afraid of saying “I love you” — and often. Go to bed at the same time and fall asleep together. Hold hands. Have pun wars. Have sex, lots of sex! Understand what you can do to make your partner feel loved; sometimes the biggest gift you can give is quality time, and other times it’s a kind word or a soft touch. Be sensitive to that. Develop loving habits that suit the pair of you, working on what you both want and ignoring what you’re told to want. Make that — and only that! — the basis of your relationship. And never go to bed angry.

    Personal Photo/ Amy Byrne
    Personal Photo/ Amy Byrne
  5. Be selfless. Remember: you’ve made a commitment (whether it’s legally binding, or simply an implied sense of fidelity) to another person and, therefore, you should be absolutely committed to putting your significant other’s needs and desires at least on par with your own, and treat them with equal importance. This doesn’t mean giving up your own identity, but simply learning to care unconditionally for your main squeeze without resentment. Occasionally it will feel like an effort, and other times it will seem natural; if this feels like a constant struggle, maybe it’s time to reassess your priorities.

Growing Up Adopted

moira carder block

Growing up with the family who chose you is a lot different than growing up with the family that gave you up. Scientific facts show that the emotional connection between the heart and soul of the mother and child start the second the baby is held by the mother. You begin to build trust, endless love, and an emotional connection with them. If you are adopted, you frankly are given up, taken away, and you miss the importance of that connection. I knew growing up that I was adopted. When I became a teenager, I became curious about my birth family. I did searches on Google and different databases to see if I could figure anything out on my own. It’s kind of an awkward conversation to have with your parents, but when I finally asked, I was told my birth parents had died in 2002.

As you hit certain parts of your life, you start to notice that you don’t look like the people around you, you don’t act like the people around you, and you feel more isolated than other kids do with their families. Teenage years are the hardest, because the years of “finding yourself” are all about finding the things inside that make you who you are. But you can’t just look at the family around you to see who you get it from. I think for me, growing up knowing that my birth parents didn’t want me makes me a little more uneasy when people leave my life or move on to bigger and better things. Being an adopted kid has instilled a fear of loss in me because I don’t always have the best self-worth that everyone else has.

Sadly, it is a proven fact that the child abuse rates in children who are adopted are significantly higher than kids who are not adopted. A lot of the time it’s because the parents have certain goals and expectations for their adopted child as they grow into a person. If a child fails to meet these expectations or turns out differently than they had planned or wanted, some adoptive parents aren’t always happy, and tend to act out in more severe ways than they would with a natural child of their own.
Adopted children may also suffer from a loss of access to important medical or genetic family histories. This makes it very difficult to live without fear of living a shorter life due to things you’re at risk for. It makes a visit to the doctor’s office awkward as well. They ask about family medical history, and you have to sit there and be reminded that you’re different from everyone else. Although adoption agencies try to gather all medical records, it is nearly impossible to get it from all of your birth family.
Growing up adopted really helps you find the person that you want to be. You don’t have to be a certain person, and you definitely don’t have to be like everyone else. I feel special knowing that I’m a different color than all the other crayons in the box. Life definitely isn’t easier this way, and I’ll always be asking questions, but I’ll always know that I have God, and He has everything happen for a reason. I’ve been blessed with an amazing brother, loyal friends, and a future that is all mine. My world may not look much different from the outside, but it’s a black and white world to me.



The Five Stages of Studying Abroad

dj bart plange block

Stage One: Denial

So you’re all set to study abroad but you’re not allowing yourself to feel the reality yet. You’re leaving in two days but you haven’t really packed anything, haven’t said goodbye to the friends you won’t get to see for a semester, and you’ve been living life just like you would on any regular day. Not everyone goes through the denial stage right before leaving; some are super gung ho and go out to buy as many travel books as humanly possible.  Sometimes you’re still in denial the moment you step off the plane. At some point though, you’ll be in complete disbelief that you’re leaving home and spending so many months in a completely different country with brand new  surroundings and culture. It’s overwhelming, and you just can’t believe that it’s finally happening.

No Idea

Stage Two: Euphoria

Everything is amazing. The food is amazing, the trees. The music is amazing, and the people are too This is the best time you’ve ever had in your life. You’re hungry for adventure, for every new experience at your hands. You’re independent, your family isn’t around, and you’re thrown into a brand new culture. You don’t ever want to return to the United States, here is where you belong. You want to go on every hike, visit every bar, go to every restaurant, and meet every new person you can, because this is a once in a lifetime experience and you’ll never get the chance to live so freely again. It’ll seem surreal that you’re here, and you’ll feel invincible, like nothing can touch you now that you’ve seen a little bit more of this giant world.

Personal Photo/ Diane-Jo Bart-Plange
Personal Photo/ Diane-Jo Bart-Plange

Stage Three: Panic

Something inevitably happens to you that brings you down to earth. Maybe someone stole your computer from your room when you left for a minute to go to the bathroom, maybe you purchased a 5 cedi souvenir for 50 because someone at the market decided to take advantage of your foreign status and cheat you, maybe the new friends you met and decided to go out partying with aren’t really the type of friends you should have been making, maybe you just realized you gained 10 pounds from all the food you’ve been stuffing your face with, maybe you got mugged in broad daylight, maybe you forgot that you actually have to study, that you go to school, right in the middle of your first midterm. No matter what it is, the panic sets in. You realize that you’re alone. Your parents aren’t here to pick up the pieces, and you’re truly independent while you’re here and have to take care of yourself. It can be terrifying, but everyone has that wake up call: the call that reminds you that you are not in fact invincible, that you are fallible and vulnerable in the new country that you’re in.

Panic Attack

Stage Four: Anger

You are past the halfway point of your study abroad adventure and you’re kicking yourself. There’s limited weekends left and you’re not ready to go. You haven’t done enough. There are so many restaurants and bars to visit, but all this time you’ve been going to the same one every Friday. There’s too many people you haven’t met, too many times you skipped a trip to sleep in a little, and now you feel like you haven’t seen enough of the country that you’re in, or many the countries that surround it. Too many foods you haven’t eaten, too many risks you haven’t taken, too many opportunities to take your experience to the fullest that you haven’t taken. You’re angry because you’re realizing that your time here is going to come to a close, and that close is sooner rather than later. You don’t want to leave the new friends you’ve made, some you might not ever get to see again, even though many of them feel like family. There just isn’t enough time in the day to do everything you want to do. No matter how much you’ve done with your time, there’s still so much more to do.


Stage Five: Acceptance

It’s time to go. You have grown so much in such a short span of time. You know you have more growing to do but accept that the adventure has to end sometime. You’ll hug and kiss your friends goodbye, promise them you’ll Skype them the minute you get home, and that you’ll never forget them, and you’ll  visit them soon. Some of the promises are empty, and some you’ll keep, but you’ll never forget the experience you shared with these people, and they’re bonded to you in a way that no other group of people will ever be. You’ll look back fondly on all the inside jokes you shared that your friends back home won’t quite understand, and shed a tear when you think about the best memories you had during your trip. You’ll think about the semester-long adventure that you had every time you wear a certain pair of shoes or  article of clothing, or look at all the crazy pictures you took. For a while you’ll spend every moment of your waking hours wishing you could go back and spend a little more time in the country you grew to love as your own, but after a while you’ll feel the pang less. You’ll get used to the time difference again, get used to the food you forgot how to eat, and the bedroom that feels so foreign to you now. You’re gone, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to come back again, but for now, it’s back to reality, and you accept the fact begrudgingly. You’re home again, and a new chapter in your book of life is about to begin.

Personal Photo/ Diane-Jo Bart-Plange
Personal Photo/ Diane-Jo Bart-Plange


Series I

shelby westfall block

I Found You


I found you today.


Walking across the street,


I found you.

You were in the snowflakes,

falling from the sky.

You were the deer,

in the park nearby.


in everything beautiful,


I found you.


A Soldier’s Christmas


You won’t be home this Christmas;

maybe not even next.

For you’re a soldier, brave and strong.

More worthy than the rest.

You’ll get no holiday bonus;

no turkey or champagne.

For you’re a soldier, brave and strong.

You endure the pain.

But what you will get this Christmas,

will be something ever grand.

When they call out for those who served us,

you can proudly stand.


No Place to Rest my Love

No place to rest my love,

no forgiving hand to hold,

no quiet glances to a lover,

I wait always in the cold.

So I go to sleep each night,

my love lays dormant by my side,

my body feeling empty

mostly just of pride.


Things You Need to Know Before Starting a Career in the Culinary Field

janine hanover block

I started culinary school two and half years ago, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that people truly don’t know what it’s like to be a chef. Friends, family, and complete strangers talk to me as though it’s something glamorous, asking me who my favorite chef is on The Food Network.  The answer is none of them; I don’t watch it.  Some show a variation of the reality but it’s almost always over the top, and the people they bring on usually just want attention.  It’s fake. Then I get questions from people who think they want to become a chef, and you can tell right away that they have no idea what they’re talking about.  They believe in the televised reality, and it’s not as pretty as you think.  It’s more like blood, sweat, lots of crying, and the occasional thought of wanting to stab your co worker with a knife. If you want to start your career in the culinary industry, these are my top things you need to know.

  1. It’s Physically Painful

Not only can being a chef be back-breaking work but you hurt yourself. A lot. Probably almost every day, and especially in the beginning.  You’re clumsy with the knife or equipment at first, but even after you’ve mastered the knife there is always a chance of injuring yourself.  (Trust me. I’ve cut and burned myself more times than I can count.)  Cuts and burns are standard occurrences, but there is also pain you won’t physically see.  At the end of the day your feet may hurt from standing at your station for an entire shift, your back could ache from hunching over your cutting board, and your arms or shoulders could feel tight from lifting all day.  If you can’t tolerate pain or body aches, move right along!  This career path is not for you.

  1. You Need to Take Care of Your Body

As a chef you can’t sit around eating junk or wasting your days on the couch. I did that for awhile, and I saw areas of my body expand that I didn’t want to see expand.  As a chef, it’s a must to taste everything you make in order to ensure the quality of the product, and sometimes what you’re tasting is unhealthy.  In theory, eating all the time sounds awesome, but it’s not awesome for your health.  Chefs can easily put on extra pounds just from trying items at work.  (That doesn’t include pastries, which is why I joined a gym.)  Once I started going to the gym at least four times a week for an hour,  I lost all the weight I gained from entering a professional kitchen. It’s also a good idea to eat healthy meals outside of work.  Your body will thank you!  Taking care of the inside of your body is important but show the outside love too.  Moisturize and exfoliate everything, especially the feet. Your hands are your tools, and your feet need nourishment after that 12 hour shift you just worked.

  1. Never Work For an Abusive Chef

DON’T DO IT! A chef that commands a kitchen by yelling and being physical with his staff doesn’t deserve your respect or your time. You’ve seen it on TV,  I know you have, but don’t believe you have to put up with it. A chef who controls a kitchen with a firm hand, speaks to you like an adult, and helps you learn and grow (not just professionally, but personally) is a chef you want to work for. I’ve heard one too many horror stories from other apprentices about how some chefs treat their staff. A friend from culinary school told me a widely successful chef in Kansas City likes to throw sauté pans at cooks, and sometimes his aim is true. One day the chef ended up hitting someone in the face, and the employee still works there! It’s typically the “old school” chefs that do it, but I’ve seen plenty of fresh faces just out of culinary school who conduct themselves in such a way. I’m fortunate enough to work for an Executive Chef who treats me and the rest of my coworkers with respect.  Even at his angriest he steps away to calm himself down before coming back.  He knows not to react abusively.  All chefs should behave like this. Period.


  1. Face Your Fears

My first day on the job terrified me in a way that I know it terrifies a lot of new apprentices. Even though I was amped up, I didn’t know anyone or anything about the industry. Just know that it’s okay to feel this way, and face your emotions head on.  You’re going to mess up, and your chef should know and understand.  If he or she cares about your education, they will help you through this journey to become the next leader in the culinary industry.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Don’t be afraid to take risks.  If you don’t know how to do something, so what?  Isn’t that why you’re there?  I started out two years ago knowing almost nothing, and now I can look back and take pride in what I’ve accomplished.  Know that you can and should feel that too.


  1.  Have Fun

They say that if you love what you do,then you’ll never work a day in your life. Nothing is more true.  Love what you do, and love who you do it with.  Enjoy every moment, even when it’s hard.  At times you’re going to want to quit; just keep your head up and push through it.  In the end, it’s all worth it.



America: The Nosy Suburban Mom of the World

brit twenter block

Between the cries of “mind your own business!” and “help those less fortunate!”, citizens of the United States have historically been torn in different directions in regards to international issues.

The country has a reputation for being war-hungry, like a soccer mom peering over her fence, ravenous for gossip while her toddler comically trips and falls in the background.  Why does the U.S. get involved in other countries’ affairs when she has so much going on in her own backyard?

It’s simple.  When America was young, before she was even America, she rebelled.  She no longer wanted to be told what to do by her distant father.  She fought viciously until she was free to make her own rules and decisions, changing the game for the rest of the world.  She borrowed bits and pieces of ideas from her neighbors, put her own spin on things, and put on a fresh, victorious face.




As America grew, battle was imminent.  This was a new place with the idea that the people could choose.  With choices, with free will, there comes opposition.  The United States has been a country divided since she released Daddy’s hand and went out west to find herself.

In the country’s early years, the only solidified reason for war was to ensure that America was indeed its own country; pushing Mexico out of Texas, Canadian rebels into submission, and its own native inhabitants into hiding.  Though blood-thirsty and seemingly arrogant, the States got her message across: “I am my own country, and I will not be touched.”



The United States stayed in her own home, only really leaving to acquire more land until the Cuban War for Independence. The majority of Cuban exports were going towards America, who had previously shown interest in claiming the country as a territory.  This didn’t settle too well with Spain, who at the time held political reign over Cuba.  As Cuba and Spain squabbled disastrously, America began to get nervous.   She was getting a lot out of her flirtation with Cuba, and Spain was ripping up their love letters.  The U.S. begged for stability, not war.  And eventually, America began to see herself in Cuba; a struggling colony trying to break free of an oppressive father.

After much back-and-forth, an agreement that Spain backed out on, and thousands of casualties on every front, the Spanish Empire collapsed.  With the Treaty of Paris now in place and more territory being handed over to her, America was now considered to be an absolute powerhouse.




With her new reputation securing a front-row seat to all of the world’s major events, the U.S. was now privy to all sorts of “insider information” that hadn’t been her business before.  She wasn’t at the top of the cheerleaders’ pyramid, but she was at least sitting with the cool kids at lunch now.

At the start of World War I, America was determined to stay neutral.  She was happy to keep her head down for now; America was a fiercely proud, young country, desperate to be well-liked by the rest of the “in” crowd.  When German U-Boats sank a ship with United States citizens on board late in the war, America finally realized that unless she dove head-first into battle, there would not be peace.  She decided that staying neutral was no longer an option, especially if she wanted to keep her dignity intact.  This shift in attitude was the spark that made this country what it is today: without war, can there be peace?




Two decades and a Depression later, a slightly more worn-down America quietly dealt with her debt.  Until, of course, the fireworks of World War II began.  Once more, America kept to herself until her people were harmed, this time from the infamous attack by Japan on Pearl Harbor.  The shock of citizens being attacked, seemingly unprovoked on her own land, summoned a fury unlike anything the country had seen in a long time.  When Congress was asked to declare war against Japan and his allies, a resounding “yes” rang throughout the country.  America and her citizens rose up to the challenge with vigor.  Both human and material resources were offered up handsomely towards the war efforts.  The war pulled America back on track financially, and gave her a reason to be proud once more…  She was rich, popular, and dating the quarterback-turned-lawyer.


Throughout every war and in the midst of every international issue, the United States has walked the line between minding her own business and barging in unannounced.  To this day, America has more military personnel in foreign countries than any other country.  Why is this considered to be acceptable by so many citizens?

Because America has been that teenager wanting to get away from her parents.

America has been that country who kept to herself, only to be bombed by a country with more resources and money.

America wants to know what’s going on in the neighborhood, because she wants not only her own children to be safe, but she wants all of the neighborhood children to play nice.

Through her experiences, she firmly believes that she is empathizing with other countries, regardless of how said other countries may feel about it.

Does the United States have the right to be so nosy?  Does this country have the right to stick herself in other countries?  Maybe it would be better to just let the Afghani and Korean military and police forces train themselves.  Maybe it would be better if America didn’t reach out to donate money and time to people dying in Africa.  It’s possible that things would be better in her own backyard if she just stayed there.

But the American mentality is that of a suburban mom.  Things are going to happen in the neighborhood regardless of what America does, and it’s her decision to either lock herself inside and ignore cries for help, or to peek over her fence to make sure everything is okay.

Mean Girls



Movie Review: The Raid 2

frank hampton block

The Raid 2, directed by Gareth Evans (The Raid, V/H/S/2), is a sequel to the 2011 martial arts classic The Raid. Unlike most sequels, The Raid 2 manages to exceed both its predecessor and expectations.

The film starts directly after the events portrayed in The Raid (also a great film!).  As a recap, rookie police officer Rama is a part of a SWAT team sent to raid an apartment complex stronghold. After their presence is made known, the apartment complex turns into hell on earth, as the landlord offers tenants free rent for life for anyone who brings him a police body. With all the exits barricaded, Rama and his squad members’ only option is to keep working towards the top of the complex in hopes of finding a way out. Upon reaching the landlord, Rama finds out that the Police Chief is in bed with the mob, and that shutting down this complex will do nothing.

At the start of The Raid 2, Rama and the other survivors are pulled straight out of the complex to an undisclosed building, where a man informs him that in order to take out the corruption in the police force, Rama has to go undercover into the heart of the various crime mobs controlling the city. Rama’s police records are wiped clean and he is sent to prison for hospitalizing a politician’s son.  After befriending Uco (Arifin Putra), the son of one of the big three crime bosses, he moles his way into the seedy underbelly of the city. Power struggles between the gangs force Rama to choose between breaking his moral code to complete his mission or blowing his cover.



The action set pieces used in this film vary between beautiful and incredibly grungy. One particular fight scene in a prison yard on a very rainy day accentuates the sheer chaos of the brawl and the brutality of the inmates.


Another scene inside of a 5-star restaurant’s kitchen is clean and pristine, mirroring the mastery of the martial arts that the fighters are showcasing.




At 2 ½ hours long, this movie definitely has some pacing issues. Already being on the longer side for a martial arts movie, some of the plot exposition is done in less than efficient ways.  The fight scenes, however, are good bridges between action and plotlines.



The camerawork in The Raid 2 does not fall into the common traps of martial arts movies; shaky cam and shortcuts are non-existent in this film. In fact, some very incredible shots are taken without the use of CGI and minimal editing (steadycam from shoulder-mounted/handheld cameras, etc.)



Just wow.

Another instance of quality martial arts filming is a particular fight with baseball bat man, in which single takes were used to do incredibly complex and flashy combos.




Iko Uwais is actually not a trained actor; he’s a Silat martial artist first and foremost, and was actually found by Evans while the director was filming a documentary on Silat. Uwais and another actor helped choreograph all of the fight scenes in both Raid films. Given his background,  Uwais actually gives a decent performance, and helps the movie flow along nicely.



All in all, The Raid 2 was a movie that had me going back to the theatre for repeat viewings, taking more friends along with me each time.  I would highly recommend this action- packed film if you and your friends want a great action film that will make you audibly react to each gruesome hit.

4 out of 5 stars.